Break out the scratching post and the kitty nip. “CATS” has come home to rule the roost, or in this case, Cal Poly’s Performing Arts Center.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s masterful stage adaptation played to packed houses Wednesday and Thursday nights, leaving smiles on the faces of young and old alike.

In the musical, Old Deuteronomy, Grizabella, Rum Tum Tugger, Mr. Mistoffelees and the rest of the rag-tag litter come together at the old junkyard, gathering for an evening of feline frivolity as they prepare for the annual Jellicle “Cats” Ball.

The group also awaits the old and beloved patriarch of their clan, Old Deuteronomy, to choose which cat will journey to the Heavyside Layer, and receive a chance to be reborn into a new and better life. All types of kitty mischief and mayhem ensues, in the form of about 20 fantastic musical numbers broken down into two acts.

Following the introductory prologue, complete with dancing strobe lights, rolling fog and glowing cats-eyes a-plenty, the action and musical numbers move along at a pretty good pace.

“Cats” is a number that introduces the audience to the 25 or so cast members, giving each an individual name to match an equally individual and unique personality. The end the number was reminiscent of Bob Fosse’s “All That Jazz,” except with characters dressed up in fur and whiskers.

“The Rum Tum Tugger” was the first real standout number of the evening, highlighting not only the music but the character as well.

The Tugger (played by Zander Meisner) showed up and demonstrated his feline qualities in a truly outstanding dance number, complete with audience interaction, accentuating the inner rock star that The Tugger ceaselessly brings to the surface throughout the entire show.

“Grizabella, The Glamour Cat” was a sad, sultry number centering on Grizabella (played by Tricia Tanguy). Although she once led an exciting, fun and glamorous life, Grizabella is now scarred, old and damaged. The other cats shy away from her, leaving Grizabella constantly longing not only for a sense of belonging but for redemption as well.

“Mungojerrie And Rumpelteazer” was an electrifying crowd pleaser. The two cats of the song’s title are a notorious couple (played by Andrew Parker Greenwood and Kristy Cavanaugh) who romped and stomped on the stage to the delight of all. In a number reminiscent of “Chicago,” these two performers nearly stole the entire show.

In the most familiar of the show’s musical numbers, Grizabella sang the ever sad and soulful “Memory.” The song is a perfect tribute to Grizabella, as it pulls at the heartstrings of the audience. As she sung, her perfectly emoted feelings began to build the bridge to redemption desperately needed by Grizabella.

“Mr. Mistoffelees” was a raucous, bouncy number focusing on Quaxo (played by Chris Mackenthun), a.k.a. Mistoffelees the magical Cat. He, Tugger and the entire cast dance their way through this upbeat section. All the while, Mistoffelees, like the others, is trying to show that he is the one that Old Deuteronomy should choose.

Grizabella again began to sign “Memory” as the shows began to draw to a close. The cats eventually arrive at the Heavyside Layer, where Grizabella, after much trial and tribulation, finally finds the redemption she seeks. Of all the cats involved, it is she that Old Deuteronomy picks to move on. The rest of the cats begin to accept her, touch her and be around her again in acceptance, which makes Grizabella nothing less than happy. Now she can finally move on with peace of mind; she is content once again.

The cast wound down the show with one final, knockout number led by Old Deuteronomy himself in which Grizabella ascends to a new plane of existence while everyone else dances and sings their fur off. The number was brought to an all-cast, rip-roaring close that brought the entire audience to its feet in a classic, well-earned standing ovation.

“Cats” is a high energy, fun and frills, stage show extravaganza fit for the entire family. It is a timeless classic that has been around since 1981 and will continue to be performed for many years to come.

I gladly give this performance of “Cats” 5 paws up!

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